kidepo valley national park

Last month a group of friends I often travel with called on me about a post lockdown trip, not just your usual trip but a road trip to Kidepo Valley National Park.  So you can imagine my excitement when he mentioned this to me. This was a brilliant idea I could not say no to knowing that travel restrictions in the country were starting to be eased.

While I had been to Kidepo (known for its vast savannah grasslands, and the hundreds of mammal and bird species) the previous year, I had not had enough of this beautiful destination, I knew instantly I wanted to be on this one.

Kidepo National park

Our first smell of the Kidepo Fresh Air

Planning the Trip

Our lead planner of our trips (Isaac) started asking around with all of us about the other preferred destinations and the unanimous reaction was to visit Kidepo. Everyone spoke about how they had not been to Kidepo but had heard of its undisputed beauty, plus the drive there would be enough reason to visit.

So we set the travel date and planned for a 4 days and 3 nights trip and as soon as the d-day came we packed our bags and took off for a weekend escape to Kidepo Valley National Park.

The Road Trip Experience

The journey to Uganda’s most Isolated park took us about 11 to 13 hours of road travel in total with a sleepover in Kitgum town before proceeding to the park on day 2 of our trip.

The drive all through was comfortable since we travelled in the luxurious and spacious 4×4 land cruisers from Primate World Safaris. Plus the roads between Kampala and Kitgum are well tarmacked and smooth we only endured rough roads between Kitgum and Kidepo.

But to be honest the drive on the rough roads was worth it with the allure of a savannah landscape, the backdrop of impressive horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges and driving through villages and beautiful homesteads of the Karamajong.

uganda safari

Beautiful scenery on our drive through Karamoja sub-region

A stop at Aruu Falls

On our first day of the road trip we made a stop at Aruu falls, these cascading streams of roaring waterfalls are a very vibrant sight to watch as water gushes down the rocks. But to get a better view of these falls one has to put in some work of maneuvering through slippery rocks, and with the help of a local guide at Eden Camp Aruu Falls we managed to conquer the challenge before proceeding to our already booked lodge in Kitgum town at Pleasant View Hotel for our dinner and overnight.

The falls are found on River Agago which later connects to river Achwa in Pader district northern Uganda. Located on the Gulu – Kitgum highway, just 47 Km from Gulu and 57 Km from Kitgum and about 386 Km from Kampala.

Aruu falls

Swimming in waterfalls at Aruu Falls

On the second day we set out for Kidepo from Kitgum arriving at Lokumoit Gate around 2pm and we straight away embarked on our short evening game drive before checking in our lodge at Apoka Rest Camp that is located within the park.

Here we had our dinner and they setup an excellent overnight campfire for us, 4 of us preferred the experience of camping in the tent we carried from Kampala to the comfort of the grass thatched Bandas at the lodge. And boy it was an experience, you could hear a lion’s roar a few miles away and for some of us it felt like just 300 meters.

kidepo valley national park

Our tent setup for the night at Apoka Rest Camp

Game Drives in Kidepo

According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kidepo National Park hosts over 77 mammal species and as well as around 475 birds which is the second-largest number of bird species in Uganda.

The game drive through the True African Wilderness is everything I could hope for and to everyone’s joy we had two game drives on our itinerary. On our first game drive just after entering the park we encountered animals like Jackson hartebeests, zebras, waterbucks, buffalos, rock hyraxes and giraffes at a distance.

kidepo national park uganda

Encounter with the Cape Buffalo on our Kidepo Game drive

And without seeing the big cats this was not it for me and I could tell the dissatisfaction on many of my friends’ faces that had at least not spotted their favourite animal yet. But I later got to know from a ranger that despite Kidepo’s rich big game, the animals tend to migrate in the rainy season and it’s hard to spot any lions, leopards, giraffes, cheetahs and elephants among others if one isn’t patient with the game drive.

Kidepo safari

Magical Sighting of a Lion resting on top of a rock as we exited the Park

But never the less I still had hope of spotting the big cats since we still had one game drive to look out for. And my luck came on our day of departure as we we’re driving through the park headed for the park exit, we spot a Lion resting on top of one of the many rocks of Kidepo. You could tell the joy and excitement on everyone’s face as they pulled out their gadgets to capture the rare moment.

This surely marked our time to say our good byes to Kidepo with at least everyone happy, we left the park and drove for over 3 hours to Kitgum town where we had our Lunch before proceeding to Gulu for an overnight and then returned to Kampala the following Day.

accommodation in Kidepo

Grass thatched Bandas at Apoka Rest Camp (Our budget accommodation in Kidepo)

After this second trip to Kidepo, I can confidently say Kidepo Valley National Park is one place you have to put on your bucket list, and for those who find it inconvenient to travel by road there are schedule flights by AeroLink from Entebbe to Kidepo

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